Author Archives: From Poverty to Power

The World Bank is having a big internal debate about Power and Governance. Here’s why it…

Writing flagship publications in large institutions is a tough job. Everyone wants a piece, as different currents of opinion, ideology or interest slug it out over red lines and key messages. Trying (and failing) to write one for Oxfam once put me in hospital. So no surprise that the flagship of flagships, the World Bank’s annual World Development Report, on Governance and Law, is currently …

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I need your help: Theories of Change for promoting Empowerment/Accountability in Fragile States

I love the summer lull. Everyone heads off for holidays, there are no meetings, so I can get my head down and write. Last year, it was wrestling How Change Happens to the finishing line. This year is less cosmic, but still interesting, and I need your help.

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Parts of the aid system just don’t work – the dismal cycle of humanitarian response

Every now and then an email stops me in my tracks, reminding me that Oxfam is stuffed full of bright, motivated, altruistic people. Here’s one I got a few weeks ago from Debbie Hillier, one of our Humanitarian Policy Advisers, in response to my request for thoughts on the state of the aid business. Her views are fleshed out in ‘A Preventable Crisis’, a new …

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How can rethinking innovation achieve Technology Justice?

Amber Meikle of Practical Action, introduces ‘Rethink, Retool, Reboot Technology as if people and planet mattered’, a new book on a massively neglected topic The history of mankind’s development has long featured technology – from early cultivation techniques, fire, and the wheel, all the way to 3D printing and nanotechnology. Today, technology underpins all aspects of everyday life: from how our food is produced and …

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Do aid organisations need marriage guidance? Five lessons for better partnerships

Audrey Lejeune (right), Programme Learning Adviser and Yo Winder (left), Global Partnerships and Accountability Adviser, both of Oxfam, introduce Partnership for Impact – a series of reflections by its staff Oxfam works in partnership with almost 700, often very different, organisations: academic institutions, UN agencies, national and/or sub-national NGOs and Civil Society Organisations – some of whom will be lobbyists, some of whom will truck water on …

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What are the implications of systems thinking for the way we design research?

If you stick around in your job long enough, you end up getting consulted a lot. Every week I seem to spend a couple of hours on skype banging on to assorted academics, NGOs consultants etc about NGOs, aid, development, life, the universe etc. The only upside (apart from a bit of human contact and an escape from reading/writing boring development documents) is getting the …

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Desertification is a dangerous Myth – A new book explains why

Oxfam researcher John Magrath reviews an explosive new book I started off life as a newspaper journalist so I appreciate the power of a good story. And that’s what the concept of desertification provides. Since the great Sahelian droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, we’ve become familiar with the idea that humans cause environmental desiccation and destruction on a huge scale; local people, usually, herders …

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What’s the evidence on fundraising with images of pity v images of dignity? Testing the…

Guest post by Alison Carlman of GlobalGiving ; A report was published last week shedding new light on the Narrative Project.  In case you’re not familiar, The Narrative Project was a wide-scale research project driven by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, InterAction, and other major NGOs in the lead-up to 2015 (and the new Sustainable Development Goals), aiming to improve US, UK, French, and …

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NGOs face a slow-onset funding disaster – what can be done to avoid it?

Brexit is prompting a lot of discussion within the UK’s aid community right now. But while the focus is understandably on EC funding and exchange rates, there’s a less visible and potentially more dangerous funding threat to deal with, argues Michael O’Donnell of Bond (the network of UK development NGOs). Right now, NGO staff focused on quality and effectiveness need to mobilise and polish their …

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Campaigning to Make India’s Roads Safer: A nice How Change Happens case study

A smart How Change Happens case study by David Bornstein in the New York Times’ ‘Fixes’ series (highly recommended). Bornstein looks at the advocacy of the SaveLife Foundation, set up by Piyush Tewari, a businessman, after his cousin Shivam was knocked down by a jeep then left to bleed to death by the roadside. Excerpts + commentary from me in italics. “India has surpassed China as …

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Links I Liked

The whole Fragile States discussion came a lot closer to home last week (power vacuums, formal v informal power, unstable leadership, fragmented patronage-based party systems, even the role of elite boarding schools……). Why oh why did the Remain campaign reject this poster? We deserve an answer. As a public service, Buzzfeed has pulled together all the best Brexit tweets of the last week. They are …

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Off to sit on a rainswept rock for a few days (aka a British holiday)

Actually, by the time you read this, I’ll already have been there for a while – such is the lag on posting blogs. Destination this time is Lundy, 5km x 1km, resident population of 28 people. Good for puffins, apparently . Will be taking some heavy duty novels, in case the rain persists, and binoculars in case we can leave the house. Back in a …

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Want to empower women? Digital Financial Services are the way to go!

Sophie Romana (left) and Shelley Spencer (right) report back from the June 8 high level roundtable organized by NetHope and USAID, which brought together mobile banking and gender champions to reflect on how Digital Financial Services (“DFS”) can galvanize women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment is often measured by their access to resources and ability to make decisions over how they are used.  Recent evidence shows that DFS delivered …

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Great new 110 page guide to humanitarian campaigning

Just been browsing through a brilliant new Oxfam guide to humanitarian campaigning. A treasure trove of 110 pages crammed full of wisdom, experience and 32 case studies on everything from addressing tribal conflicts in Pakistan to gender responsive work with Syrian refugees to influencing Australia’s humanitarian policy. And no sign of an executive summary. Sigh. To be fair, it would be very hard to summarize, …

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